Initial probe supports villagers' requests

Updated: 2011-12-31 08:14

By Qiu Quanlin (China Daily)

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WUKAN, Guangdong - The main requests of the residents of a southern village in the county-level city of Lufeng, Guangdong province, regarding financing, land use and violation of law and discipline by village heads are reasonable, a preliminary investigation has found.

The investigation, conducted by a special provincial work group since Dec 19 and released on Friday, indicated that some local officials violated the law and ethics of office while selling farmlands in Wukan village for commercial use.

Complaints escalated since September about land use, finance and elections of the village's leaders, prompting Wukan villagers to hold sometimes violent demonstrations in Lufeng, which administers the village.

"The issue of land use, including collecting the land from villagers and selling to developers, has not been publicly and fairly disclosed to residents since the 1990s," said Yang Junbo, deputy director of the Guangdong provincial department of land and resources, who is in charge of investigating the land issue under the provincial work group.

Since 1993, the former Wukan village committee sold about 42 hectares of farmland for commercial use. Only 3.6 hectares of that were approved or officially registered for use by local authorities, the preliminary investigation showed.

The village of 11,000 people has a total area of 638 hectares, of which 88 hectares are arable land.

In one case, residents requested the return of 30 hectares of farmland that was developed by a company jointly invested in by the village committee and a Hong Kong company.

The sale of the land, which was actually 4 hectares larger than the approved area, was not disclosed to residents.

In response to the villagers' request, the Lufeng government has annulled the land transaction and is planning to compensate the developer and return the land to villagers for farming, said local government sources.

A number of local officials, including Xue Chang, former village Party chief, and Chen Shunyi, head of the village committee, are alleged to have embezzled public assets and to have accepted bribes during the sales of farmland.

Xue and Chen have been removed from their posts and the provincial work group said that an election of a new village committee will be held.

"We will further investigate alleged violations of law and ethics of local officials involved in the village issue, regardless of how high their positions are, and we will inform residents of the results as soon as possible," said Zeng Qingrong, deputy director of the Guangdong provincial department of supervision.

Regarding the financing issue, the work group found there is reason to suspect some former local officials of depositing public money into their personal bank accounts and using it without approval.

Former village Party chief Xue allegedly purchased a car worth 200,000 yuan ($31,250) for personal use in July 2010.

"Residents seldom benefited from the land sales. We will instruct the local village committee to build a transparent and fair financing system in the near future," said Gu Xingwei, deputy director of the Guangdong provincial department of agriculture, who is in charge of the village financing issue investigation.

Three people from the village who were detained on suspicion of vandalism during a protest in September against the land use, have been released on bail pending trial, sources with the local police said.

Their release comes after Xue Jinbo, another detainee, died in police custody on Dec 11.

The stand-off between villagers and the local government was not defused until Dec 22 when Zhu Mingguo, deputy Party chief of Guangdong, held a direct dialogue with villagers, promising a "fair and open" investigation.

China Daily